The last 3 days have been full of beautiful and sometimes emotional reunions.
As I wrote on Monday, our Child Rights Advocate, Van, is up in the mountains of Dien Bien province meeting the 23 kids we rescued from factories a month ago, while I have been in central Vietnam catching up with the children around Hue and Hoi An who are part of the Blue Dragon family.
One fantastic encounter last night was at Streets restaurant. On Monday I mentioned that one of our Hue girls is about to start training there; last night I saw Nam, who used to live in the Hoi An Children's Home, and who is about to complete his 18 month program there.
The founder of streets, Neal, has given us a glowing report about Nam's progress... not just in his obvious cooking skills (and the food at Streets is amazing), but more importantly in his confidence. We were sad to say goodbye to Nam when he left the Home, but Streets has been the best thing that could have happened to him.
It was great to hang out at the Home on Tuesday and today, catching up with kids who I have known for years and meeting some who have just been living there for a few months. All of the kids are from extremely poor families and have a range of needs which are better met in a group home than in the community. For these kids, living at their own home would almost certainly mean they could not go to school.
Apart from reunions, I was thrilled to meet someone new: a 5 month old boy named Long. His dad is the man I refer to as "Baby Nam", the first street kid ever met in Vietnam, back when I was here on holidays in 1999. No longer a Baby, Nam has his own shoe shop and family. Long was adorable, and I swear he wanted to lay like this - it wasn't just my general incompetence with babies!
While I have been in central Vietnam, a lot has been happening across Blue Dragon. Our Outreach team is on the road right at the moment taking home a boy from an ethnic minority village who ran away from home 2 years ago and then couldn't get back... so lived on the streets of Hanoi. It's a 1400km round trip, way up in the mountains, so this is a pretty big trip!
And I have been hearing lots from Van up in Dien Bien province. The families are deeply grateful that he has come back to see them. He's been distributing basic supplies, including instant noodles, just as a show of support, but these items are so highly valued that one mother said she would keep them aside, for a time when she is ill, so that she would really make the best use of them.
There are lots of stories that I could tell about what's been happening up there in the mountains, but one really stands out. The little guy in the picture below, "R" was one of the kids we brought home in October. Van was walking through his village, and the boy saw him from a classroom window (yes, some of the kids are back in school already!).
On seeing Van, R jumped up and raced out of the school to greet him. He was wearing his Jetstar hat, which the airline had given to all the kids when they flew home. Clearly this, too, is a prized possession.
R was overcome with emotion at seeing Van back in the village. His opening words were "I thought I'd never see you again."
If that doesn't inspire me to do my best for these kids, then what else could?